release date: March 23, 2011
paperback, 328 pages
intended audience: Young adult
series: AVRA-K, book 1
source: from author for honest review
Her mom is dead. Ghosts follow her around. Her best friend is an elephant. And she’s about to meet the biggest game changer of all: a boy. With a secret. When circus-dwelling Gemma Flannery learns she will be attending public school for the first time in her seventeen years, little does she know that fitting in with her 12th-grade classmates will be the least of her concerns. A pro at hiding her knack for seeing the dead (“shades”), Gemma is grieving the recent suicide of her mentally ill mother, a process eased by the introduction of her first real love interest, the charming and painfully handsome Henry Dmitri, who is harboring his own collection of dangerous secrets. Together, they will be presented with a frightening challenge: to assume their roles as heirs to a 3000-year-old magical text, the AVRAKEDAVRA, a book the über-rich, sleight-of-being master Lucian Dmitri would do anything to get his hands on. As each terrifying layer in her new reality melts away, Gemma unearths truths that her quiet, nomadic life with the Cinzio Traveling Players is not at all what she’d always cherished. Gemma and Henry must rely on each other to stop Lucian’s diabolical plotting that will bring the world to its tired, scab-riddled knees, and are sent on the flight of their young lives, to save themselves, their families, and the world from the darkest kind of destruction. Let the chase begin.
Review: Jennifer Sommersby has an amazing way with words and descriptions that just pulls you right in. The storytelling is fast-paced and exciting and chock full of magic, ghosts (called Shades, some scary, some not), plenty of intriguing family secrets and a cruel, conspiring villain.
Gemma Flannery, a fiery red-haired circus musician who has just lost her mother and has always had the ability to see Shades, was a fantastic character. She was principled, smart, and very much shaped by the unusual life she's been raised in with the traveling circus, perfectly rounded out with a sharp, snarky humor. Throw in a little angstiness at having to adjust to regular high school life and you have one very authentic, likable, passionate character.
The circus is her built-in family and the people she cares about most. Her best friends in the world are an outgoing trapeze artist and an elephant. There are so many great characters among them, it's hard to pin a favorite! With the introduction of Lucian and his son, Henry, things start getting a little strange and twisted. The poor girl gets hit with one shock after the next. The more Gemma learns about the role she plays in the fate of the Avra-K, a set of ancient magical books, the more Gemma's familiar world gets turned upside down. Suddenly she and the people she loves are put in terrible danger.
I really enjoyed the complexity of the love story between Gemma and Henry. It wasn't this simple thing of "I like you and you like me"...there were so many wrenches thrown into the works, so many dangers and challenges that they both had to face. They are both so involved in what is happening around them. It will be interesting to see how they get through it all as the series continues!
There was a turning point in the action that I temporarily thought would have made a better end to book one and start to book two, and it just slightly slowed the flow for me...until the chase picked up and I got to the actual end. The ENDING...WOW. Took my breath away and now has me checking Goodreads daily for any news on book 2 of this amazing series.
Definitely pick this one up! Such a great story, though I do recommend for older teens due to a few really violent and disturbing scenes.
Visit Jennifer Sommersby's site here!
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